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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Robot's Body of Knowledge

An article in IEEE Spectrum showing robots doing common household tasks inspired me to think again about our own experiments with robots in the enterprise.  Like any manufacturing company we had been using robotic systems in plants for years.  We had also been experimenting with artificial intelligence, and included these ideas in how a robot might directly help the consumer. There had been work with academic groups to figure out how the technology could reasonably be applied to do those mostly unpleasant tasks in the home.  Doing the dishes, folding clothes, cleaning surfaces, etc.  Technology vendors wanted to help.  Since we made some of the products that support those tasks, why not? 

Early examples of specific task helper robotics were interesting, and we allied with them.  They are still out there, notably the Roomba.    We worked on related 'intelligence' for these kinds of devices.  Some of the results were remarkable, but typically also relatively expensive.  Accurate sensors were also an issue.  Further, in work with consumers we found that there was interest, but they want the devices to perform the whole task, not just a small piece of it.  The added complexity of the robotic device made it of interest to the Geek in some of us, than the person that had to do the unpleasant task.  Still looking for the robot butler.

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